Objectives: The aim of this study was to critically examine the current guidance for conducting ethics analysis in health technology assessment (HTA) and to offer recommendations for how to improve this practice.
Methods: MEDLINE, Philosopher's Index, and Google Scholar were searched for articles and reports using the keywords “ethics” and “health technology assessment” and related terms. Bibliographies of all relevant articles were also examined for additional references. A philosophical analysis of the existing guidance was conducted.
Results: We offer three recommendations for improving ethics analysis in HTA. First, ethical and legal issues must be clearly separated so that all policy-relevant questions that the technology raises can be considered clearly and systematically. Second, analysts must make better use of ethics theory and discuss better how particular theoretical approaches and associated analytic tools are selected to make transparent which alternative approaches were considered and why they were rejected. Third, the necessity for philosophical expertise to adequately conduct ethics analysis needs to be acknowledged.
Conclusions: To act on these recommendations for ethics analysis, we offer these three steps forward: acknowledge and use relevant expertise, further develop models for conducting and reporting ethics analyses, and make use of untapped resources in the literature.